Rethinking Pair Programming

I have to be honest. Before I came to Dev Bootcamp and until two days ago, I thought I was a solo programmer. After all, I’ve been learning and programming alone until I was forced to pair program every day at Dev Bootcamp in the past two weeks.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy pair programming, but it just doesn’t seem to be very productive. I usually pair with people who are below me, which means I go pretty slow for my level and explain concepts to them along the way.

I enjoy working beginners  and helping them out (that is one of the reasons I started this blog), but I came to Dev Bootcamp to learn, not to teach, so it’s been a bit frustrating to halt my personal learning to help others learn. I still learn something new every day, but it’s not the firehose of new stuff that I’m used to getting on my own.

I was pretty convinced before yesterday that I’d want to work somewhere where I get to program solo.

On Thursday, however, we were very lucky to have Rob Mee, Founder of Pivotal Labs, speak to us about pair programming, and what the work environment is like there. In case you are not familiar with Pivotal Labs, the engineers there pair program all the time. Another thing you should know is that Pivotal Labs is one of the best Ruby on Rails agencies in the world which has recently been acquired for hundreds of millions.

As a result of the pair programming, the culture at Pivotal Labs is one of constant learning. No matter what you’re building, you’re discussing the strategy with another very smart person, who can and will question you and suggest solutions that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. You also get to switch pairs every day, so you get to learn from someone new who again questions all the decisions you’ve made previously with your code. As a result of this constant pairing, you are forced to spend the time learning small things, like how to type fast and use your text editor efficiently, in addition to the big things so you can be a good pair.

The pair programming creates an open culture where anyone will stop what they’re doing to learn something from a colleague who just discovered some cool trick or algorithm and wants to share.

Pivotal Labs currently has about 170 engineers. Imagine getting to learn every day from 170 people! I don’t know about you, but that sounds exciting to me. I’m more of an audio learner, and I LOVE when people explain stuff to me. I am now looking for a job where I get to pair program as much as possible 🙂

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